Ever felt sleepy behind the wheel? You’re not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey asking, "During the last 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?" among other sleep-related questions. Of the 147,076 folks from 19 states who responded to the question, 4.2% said they had fallen asleep at least once in the previous month.
Why is that important? Well, obviously sleep-driving is a safety risk. Drowsiness slows reaction time, the CDC report said; it makes drivers less attentive, and it impairs decision-making skills, all of which can contribute to crashes. Sleep-related crashes are more likely to happen at night or during the midafternoon when drivers are more likely to be sleepy, the report notes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 2.5% of fatal car crashes and 2% of all crashes involve drowsy driving. According to the CDC study, other unnamed reports suggest that drowsy driving might be involved in as many as a third of fatal car crashes.
Unsurprisingly, those who said they had fallen asleep in the previous month also reported that they were getting less than six hours of sleep a night, that they snore or that they sometimes unintentionally fall asleep during the day at rates higher than the average driver.
Other findings in the CDC study:
Men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women (5.3% versus 3.2%)
Drowsy driving prevalence decreased with age, from less than 4.9% among adults ages 18 to 44 to 1.7% among those 65 and older. Younger drivers (16-24) are especially at risk, as we noted that in a report last year.
CDC points out what we know: Drowsy driving is always unsafe. If you feel yourself blinking a great deal or yawning a lot, or if your mind is wandering, it’s time to pull over and rest.